1 DAVID BOWIE
Sydney Entertainment Centre, 1987
The Glass Spider tour is not widely regarded as one of Bowie’s best. In fact, it’s often considered the nadir of his career as a performer: overblown, untidy, and altogether rather cringe-inducing and uncool. But perhaps it’s worth another look, not least because its ambition has a certain charm and because it contains cracking renditions of some of rock’s greatest songs. There’s abseiling, elaborate choreography (Bowie is joined by a troupe of urban-styled dancers) and some sort of vague and baffling narrative. It begins with the singer descending on a chair out of the head of the vast titular arachnid recounting some myth he’s concocted. But given that so many of today’s acts seem desperate to appear as mundane as possible, it’s worth being reminded of the theatrical possibilities of rock, even if not all the ideas work particularly well. Best of all though is the lush-sounding but still hard-edged band (guitarist: Peter Frampton), who power through the likes of Rebel Rebel and The Jean Genie and bring finesse to Time and Absolute Beginners. And shorn of its insipid or crass studio production, some of his derided ’80s material sounds much better than you may remember - not least Blue Jean, a pretty storming affair here. He’s in great voice and full-on showman mode, too. In all then, probably just the rock’n’roll escapism we need.
Wembley Stadium, 1986
Returning to the scene of their career-defining Live Aid triumph of the previous year, Freddie and co are every inch the imperious rock gods here, entirely in their element as kings of this and countless other stadiums. The band have space and time to demonstrate their remarkable skill, while Mercury has rarely sounded better. It’s a treat for everyone from the casual fan to the aficionado.
Apollo Theatre, Glasgow, 1979
It was a remarkable night. As Scotland saw in the 1980s, Blondie were playing in Glasgow, on December 31 1979. The intensity of the atmosphere is palpable: the show was broadcast live, lending an extra sense of edge and bite to proceedings. This was all at a pivotal time in the band’s career, too, having topped the charts earlier in the year with the genre-defying Heart of Glass.
4 THE CLASH
Capitol Theater, New Jersey, 1980
A scorching band at the height of their powers. Few punk albums are as potent or daring as London Calling, which was released in the UK in 1979 and the USA in January 1980. This concert took place just two months later and shows not only why they were already so loved but also why they would go on to influence so many others.
For sheer energy and thrills, it doesn’t get much better than this, arguably the greatest pop star on the century headlining arguably the world’s greatest music festival. She is plainly relishing every second, as is the vast crowd. At once personable, intimate and majestic, Beyoncé careers through songs as immense as Crazy in Love and Single Ladies, while bringing renewed beauty and soul to epic ballads. An uplifting tour de force.